An Interview with Pigeons Playing Ping Pong’s Greg Ormont

Mastering the headlining slot across the country, invading the studios at Paste Magazine and announcing a fresh run of gigs for Winter tour with a pass through Rochester’s Anthology, Greg Ormont, Jeremy Schon, Ben Carrey and Alex Petropulos have channeled their full potential into their latest studio effort.

With their ‘Pizazz’ tour in full swing hitting every square inch of North America, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong have perfected their explosive live energy and demanding presence with each passing show. Never slowing momentum and bringing the “better than the last” mentality to every gig, they stormed the freshly introduced Brooklyn Steel on Nov. 24, just before P4 brings their “Fun in Funk” to Saratoga Springs’ newly renovated Putnam Den just over one year from their Dopapod opening set.

NYS Music got to chat with Ormont, the wide-eyed front man on a rare day off, ahead of Pigeons Playing Ping Pong‘s Putnam Den resurgence. Here’s what he had to say about song-writing evolution, evanescent free time and the group’s steadfast efforts, all with interjections from wrestling foster cats.

Alyssa Ladzinski: Hey Greg! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me tonight. You’re in between gigs, where am I catching ya today?  

Greg Ormont: I’m in Baltimore where we live when we’re not touring all the time so I’m at home which is always appreciated! Ready to get this interview rollin’.

AL: Let’s do it. Well as far as NY state shows go, you hit Brooklyn Steel a few days ago and being from Port Washington, LI yourself, how can you describe the atmosphere of that NY show and playing in a freshly opened and energized venue?

GO: Oh, Brooklyn Steel is fantastic. It’s very “Brooklyn” in the sense that you’re walking outside of it and it kinda looks like a warehouse, you really wouldn’t expect it to be this awesome venue from the outside but once you’re inside, its expansive, everyone can see the stage, the sound is great and on our end, the crew was awesome and super helpful. We had a smooth time at a new venue in Brooklyn. The energy in the room was off the charts. I had a few friends from LI in the crowd but it was hard to see them because fortunately a lot of people came out, so it was a blast. We even debuted a new Stevie Wonder cover that seemed to go over well.

AL: The last time you played Putnam Den in Saratoga Springs you opened for Dopapod. This time around, you’re headlining. Are you approaching this show any differently than you did nearly one year ago?

GO: Well we approach all our shows more or less the same with the full amount of energy that we can muster. With a headlining show, we have more time to jam and extend songs. I think the only difference will be that we’re able to dig into our catalogue more and extend jams for however long we want. When you’re opening, you’re always looking at the clock trying to wrap up with enough time for the next band to go on. We have a lot more freedom headlining and hopefully it’ll reflect in the music.

GO: *Hold on, time out. I have to break up a cat fight. Come on! Enough! Sorry, you can include this in all the quotes. Or don’t.*

AL: You bet I will. It’s all gold. I feared my cats would do the same.

GO: Go upstairs! My fiance fosters a lot of animals so I have an old geriatric dog barking at random cats. OK they’ve been separated. We should have a smooth interview from here. We have a bunch of cats walking around. This dog will bark at its reflection for a while. Animals have been separated, adrenaline is pumping, let’s keep movin’!

AL: Colorful is one word that comes to mind when thinking of Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. Let’s say you, Jeremy, Ben and Alex are each your own crayons. What color would each of you be and why?

GO: Holy moly I really didn’t see this question coming.  Well Jeremy would be green and we’re gonna go with snake green. That’s because our guitarist has always been into snakes, lizards and frogs and stuff. He’s the kinda guy that will pick up a frog if its hopping around and I believe his first screen name was greensnakeman, maybe greensnakeman88. For some reason I’m thinking Alex would be red. I haven’t played with crayons in a while. He’d be a ragin’ red. And then I really wanna be blue but I’d have to pick a better adjective.

AL: I’m channeling a Blazin’ Blue.

GO: Blazin’ blue, that’s not bad! I’ll take help from NYS Music. Boy, and Ben would be the only one that changes color. He’d be the chameleon crayon. Everyday is different, every song is different and he changes outfits right in front of your eyes on stage. He’s a chameleon crayon straight-up and I’m blazin’ blue courtesy of NYS music.

AL: That’s what we’re here for! You announced even more winter tour dates on this ‘Pizazz’ run- how do you take time to rejuvenate with every show during this expansive and rigorous touring schedule?

GO: Well we just appreciate the times that we’re home and try to pour as much energy into our home life as we do on stage and on tour. We keep pretty busy off the road between working on new material, upcoming shows and we’ll be announcing a theme for our New Year’s show very soon. Jeremy and I throw Domefest, so you know I would like to rejuvenate more but I definitely don’t have any complaints. Now is the time for us. I know that and I love hustlin’, it’s good to stay busy. Even on tour we have some sweet off days. We went out in New Orleans this past tour and blew off some steam day drinking and wandering around the city. We recently went jet skiing in San Diego with our original drummer which is a great way to rejuvenate and keep the spirits exploding. It’s also another way to stay completely exhausted on tour on your one day off but it’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make.

AL: A lot of these tracks have been performed over the course of the years with your extreme live presence and are already fan-favorites. Which track are you happiest made the cut onto Pizazz?

GO: I’m definitely proud of “Ocean Flows.” That’s a song that I wrote the basic ideas for a while ago and it took us a while as a band to agree that it’s one we should play live. It’s one of the band’s more favorable songs to play to keep the energy flowing all the way to the end. It’s always cool listening to the finished products and remembering how they were written. Some being in spur of the moment goofy situations and it’s amazing people are listening and playing it on the radio when it was just a fun little diddy that developed into a song. A lot of times it boils down to if you picked up the guitar that day. One day I pick up the guitar and stumble across a fun new song that we love playing live, then it’s onto the album and radio station. You can always bring it back to “what if I never picked up the guitar that day.” Reminds me to take chances and strike now but at the same time keep it loose and not worry about where the song is going. If it ends up on an album that’s great, but if not, that’s also fine because fortunately the jam community allows us to play a lot of different kinds of music.

AL: Let’s talk the Flock and the Coop, your Facebook fan page and marketplace. Your fan base exponentially grows as does the sale of your pins. Are you surprised to see how much money people are willing to drop on them? I’ve even seen a few go for around 300 bucks.

GO: It’s pretty wild people are collecting our pins so feverishly. I kinda shut that type of stuff out. I stopped looking at the Flock as much as well its better I just focus on writing music and making plans for upcoming shows and not getting bogged out whats going on with the outside of things. I’m very appreciative people are psyched about our artwork and the band and we hope that whoever is flipping these pins are doing something good with the money. We prefer that go to charity or something but nonetheless, we’re excited that people are stoked on it and we love working with local artists and people from all over the country to make new artwork and keep pushing the envelope with how wacky we can get with a band named Pigeons Playing Ping Pong.

AL: What advice do you have for first time flockers catching the Putnam Den show?

GO: Oh man, well just relax and if you feel like dancing like a monkey go for it, no one’s gonna judge you if you dance like a monkey. We’ve had a few monkeys at our shows that have impressed us and inspired us to play more jungle style music. Just let it flow and don’t forget to smile.

AL: What actor would play you in a movie based on your life?

GO: Oh I hope me, that would be so cool! Do people do that? Maybe John C. Reilly but we’d have to act quickly. Wouldn’t want to do that in 20 years, that would be older Dewey right before he has a heart attack on stage. I think he could pull it off. Maybe Idris Elba. A strong combo of Idris Elba, John C. Reilly and a dash of Jack Black.

AL: Spitfire round! Choose the first answer that comes to mind.

AL: Kiwi or mango?

GO: Kiwi!

AL: Lemon or lime?

GO: Lemon

AL: New York or California?

GO: Ah. I know it’s supposed to be quick but I’m from New York and I really like California and I WANT to say California but my heart says New York.

AL: Sweet or savory?

GO: Sweet

AL: White or dark chocolate?

GO: White, and you know, I really would choose milk chocolate and in retrospect, I’d probably go lime but I said lemon. But that’s what it’s all about! It reveals things to me that I didn’t know about myself. In most interviews I don’t learn a lot about myself so thank you for this introspective line of questioning. I’ll be up all night thinking about the crayons and who would play me in a movie. I’ll text you later if i think of a better answer. Also feel free to take a poll! If any of our readers know who would play me in a movie, let’s hear it!

AL: We’ll put a call out! Thanks so much for entertaining these questions with some fun answers and anecdotes. Really looking forward to catching you at the Den.

GO: That was fun! You really threw me off. I normally get more standard questions. If I seriously think of anything else I’ll text you a follow up and you can say ”Greg texted later that it’s really “Sahara orange.”

Catch Pigeons Playing Ping Pong at Putnam Den on Saturday, December 2nd with the help of Flamingosis in the opening slot. Doors open at 8:30pm with the show to rage shortly after at 9:30pm.

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